As the tiny tips of my spring bulbs appear trepidatiously through the damp winter earth (though I have seen them only with a torch in the dark), it is time to reflect on the year gone by, and look forward to another gardening year.
Despite the worldwide horrors of 2016, the political chaos, the deepening refugee crisis, the deaths of so many greatly loved public figures, and one or two personal losses, dare I whisper it that 2016 has actually been an incredibly happy and successful year for me personally, not least in my gardening life.
My main development has been through attending courses. On a whim, I booked myself onto the Royal Botanics’ Practical Horticulture course, a year-long course that has so far greatly deepened my understanding of various aspects of gardening and helped me hone my skills in all sorts of practical horticultural methods. On the back of this, I undertook work experience the dreamy garden nursery of Rona, the Quirky Bird at Quercus Garden Plants, and in the beautiful walled garden of Pyrus, where florists Natalya and Fiona grow their incredible flowers. These heady days of digging, planting and pruning (and lots of tea and chatting!) were some of my most treasured memories of the year. I also attended four classes at a famed local florist’s, Narcissus, where I learnt to make hand-tied bouquets, vase arrangements and a Christmas wreath.
Speaking of vases, I once again partook in as many Monday Vases as possible this year, as hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. This fun and creative activity can be quite meditative, and has widened my love of growing my own flowers as well as exercised my imagination in the less bountiful months as I look around for less obvious botanical items with which to decorate the house. I had the great pleasure of finally meeting Cathy and her husband the Golfer when they visited Edinburgh recently. It was so wonderful to finally put a face to the name behind one of my favourite blogs.
Another of my favourite things to do is visit gardens that are open to the public. This year I have had the pleasure of seeing Shepherd House Garden in Inveresk, Newliston near Edinburgh, Arley Hall Gardens in Cheshire, Dawyck Botanical Gardens near Peebles, Abbotsford near Melrose, and RHS Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire. Of these, Shepherd House was by far my favourite, although the beauty of Dawyck’s trees in November will never be forgotten.
Naturally I developed the gardens, both front and back this year. The front garden received a new arch, new window boxes, and a major edit. It did not do as well as in 2015, sadly, and I was baffled by the failure of plants that had thrived the previous year, until my neighbour mentioned that the council had chopped the trees in the street back somewhat just before we moved in. The extra light getting through in the first year followed by regrowth of the trees and much less light the following year explained a lot. But ‘the right plant in the right place’ is always my maxim, and so I will be adding more plants for dry shade in 2017.
The back garden, meanwhile, started 2016 as a scrubby wasteland, and finished like this:
I thoroughly enjoyed building that patio, and am now an amateur expert on cement mixing and sub-bases. Further brickwork is in progress to the left of the back door, which will eventually house some mundane items such as the wood pile and garden bins, but also be surrounded by bulbs and annuals in summer.
Finally, Edinburgh Garden Diary also developed during 2016. I had much more free time this year than in previous years, and so was able to quadruple my readership and receive about 10,000 page views in total, as well as expand the number of gardening blogs I follow. New for this year were my book reviews, which were some of my most popular posts, and my Instagram page, which I started because I had too many lovely photographs to share on this blog, and which I usually update every day with beautiful pictures from both house and garden.
Suffice for me to say a huge thank you to all my readers, including especially those who take the time to comment on my posts – I love hearing from you and look forward very much to your visits and comments in 2017. No money or sponsorship of any kind comes to me from this blog; I keep it up from the pleasure of writing about gardening and taking photographs, and of meeting other likeminded gardeners and reading about your gardening exploits. So here’s to a happy, healthy and horticultural 2017 to you all!
Jo, Edinburgh, 2016